Sound Transit details light rail construction delays

Sound Transit’s light rail extension between Seattle and Bellevue will open at least a year late.

The agency this week also revealed months of construction delays in new lines to Lynnwood and Federal Way.

The biggest problem is on East Link, where 14 miles of tracks were supposed to open in July 2023.

“We’re going to get there. We’re going to do what the voters asked us to do and get light rail out there as quickly as possible,” said Sound Transit Deputy CEO Kimberly Farley.

Four miles of concrete track support in Seattle and Mercer Island have to be rebuilt.

Farley said the contractor is on the hook for cost overruns and quality control but acknowledges Sound Transit’s oversight fell short.

“Frankly, we missed some things there and we’re changing the way we’re doing those practices,” Farley said.

The light rail extension to Federal Way, scheduled to open in 2024, is now pushed back until 2025 after contractors found a problem beside I-5 in Kent.

A sliding hillside and liquefied soil mean engineers must make design changes.

To the north, light rail to Lynnwood is delayed four to six months because of pandemic-related labor and materials shortages, and the concrete drivers’ strike.

“Obviously, there are sometimes small delays but this is egregious, north, south, east, it’s too much,” said Ron Davis of the transit advocacy group Seattle Subway.

The organization, usually a Sound Transit booster, is frustrated by what it sees as a failure to center the needs of riders.

“We’re really hoping that the new CEO, Julie Timm, can get the agency back on track,” Davis said.

Timm begins work next month.

Sound Transit says it should have a better estimate in November when these extensions will actually open.

Officials said the overhead costs for extending projects should be covered by the contingency budget.

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